8 Quiet Firsts In Tech In 2014 - InformationWeek

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12/23/2014
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8 Quiet Firsts In Tech In 2014

Maybe you didn't hear about these science and technology breakthroughs, from robots to space exploration. But they will be remembered 20 years from now.
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New Fields Medal firsts
Every four years since 1936 (with a long break around World War II), the International Mathematical Union has awarded the Fields Medal, originally to two mathematicians, and now usually to four. It's often described as 'the Nobel Prize for math' but that's misleading; in fact it's a great deal harder to win a Fields Medal than a Nobel Prize in science or literature. To be eligible, mathematicians must be younger than 40 and must have made fundamental contributions to mathematics. The award is given in part to ensure that enough attention is called to that work. In other words, its purpose is not to tell the winners, 'Wow, you're good,' or 'On the whole, that turned out to be important' years after the fact, as is often the case with the Nobel Prize. Rather, its message is this: 'The most profound and insightful mathematicians in the world think your work is among the most important being done today, and we want to call the attention of all mathematicians to it.'
In short, the Fields Medal is one of the most extraordinary awards for accomplishment, significance, ability, and further expectation ever created. And this year, there were three Fields Medal firsts: 
The first South American medalist was Artur Avila of Brazil, whose insight into discrete dynamical systems (all that chaos and catastrophe stuff you've heard of) and mixing processes looks very likely to be the basis of many breakthroughs in physics and many developments in engineering across the next half-century or more). 

The other two firsts belong to the same person: Maryam Mirzakhani, the first woman and the first Iranian to win a Fields Medal. Her exploration of Riemann surfaces points toward deeper unities across many disparate branches of mathematics.
For both Avila and Mirzakhani, the 'firsts' are mostly novelty. More important, we're looking at the dawn of something really big -- it just might be a decade or two before we know what it is. 

(Image: Stefan Zachow, International Mathematical Union)

New Fields Medal firsts
Every four years since 1936 (with a long break around World War II), the International Mathematical Union has awarded the Fields Medal, originally to two mathematicians, and now usually to four. It's often described as "the Nobel Prize for math" but that's misleading; in fact it's a great deal harder to win a Fields Medal than a Nobel Prize in science or literature. To be eligible, mathematicians must be younger than 40 and must have made fundamental contributions to mathematics. The award is given in part to ensure that enough attention is called to that work. In other words, its purpose is not to tell the winners, "Wow, you're good," or "On the whole, that turned out to be important" years after the fact, as is often the case with the Nobel Prize. Rather, its message is this: "The most profound and insightful mathematicians in the world think your work is among the most important being done today, and we want to call the attention of all mathematicians to it."

In short, the Fields Medal is one of the most extraordinary awards for accomplishment, significance, ability, and further expectation ever created. And this year, there were three Fields Medal firsts:

The first South American medalist was Artur Avila of Brazil, whose insight into discrete dynamical systems (all that chaos and catastrophe stuff you've heard of) and mixing processes looks very likely to be the basis of many breakthroughs in physics and many developments in engineering across the next half-century or more).

The other two firsts belong to the same person: Maryam Mirzakhani, the first woman and the first Iranian to win a Fields Medal. Her exploration of Riemann surfaces points toward deeper unities across many disparate branches of mathematics.

For both Avila and Mirzakhani, the "firsts" are mostly novelty. More important, we're looking at the dawn of something really big -- it just might be a decade or two before we know what it is.

(Image: Stefan Zachow, International Mathematical Union)

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Ariella,
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12/23/2014 | 9:12:19 AM
Rewalk
I've read about Rewalk before. It represents an innovaation that really merits the term "life-changing," making it possible for some people to walk.
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